Authors: rachelle Vaughn
Here Violet had only known Jace for a short time—hours, really—and she was already having warm and cozy thoughts about him.
that her visit was strictly business, Violet gathered her wits about her and parked in the driveway.
When she got out of
her car, she inhaled the fragrant pine air. The air was chillier up here in the mountains. At least ten degrees colder. Snowflakes fluttered to the ground and a few of them even stuck to the pine needles on the ground. What a gorgeous place to live.
caught herself staring at the beautiful cabin and had to clamp her mouth shut for fear of looking like a slack-jawed idiot when she saw Jace.
She hauled her massage table out of the trunk and up to the front door.
Within seconds of knocking
on the giant oak door, Jace swung it open and greeted her with a knee-weakening smile. “Hi,” he said.
Part of him had been disappointed when Patricia took his call. He’d been looking forward to seeing hot little Violet again and now here she was.
Standing on his doorstep looking like a gift from above.
breath hitched in her throat. He was as handsome as he’d been two days ago.
No, wait. He was even more handsome today being at home in his own element.
So she hadn’t imagined those broad shoulders, that lean torso, the twinkle in his eye. That invisible magnetism that pulled her to him. She was drawn to him like Senior citizens to Boca Raton, Florida.
To make matters worse, s
weat dotted his skin and he was wearing workout clothes. The thought of Jace working out and working up a sweat caused certain body parts to clench.
“Hi,” she answered back
after the long, shameless perusal of his body.
“Did you find the place okay?”
snorted. “Honestly, I was beginning to think Pats sent me on a wild goose chase for Aunt Keyster Way!”
His forehead wrinkled and she waved her hand.
“Doesn’t matter. I’m here now.”
and his eyes crinkled at the corners. “Next time it’ll be easier to find.”
Violet didn’t know if her central nervous system could handle a next time. Oh, well. It would just have to. She was definitely looking forward to seeing him again. Now that she knew how to find him, there wasn’t anything standing between them. Except for maybe the fact that she was engaged.
Jace noticed the huge table she was holding onto and went to grab it for her. “Here, let me help you with that.”
Oh, I’ve got it,” she told him and waved off his help.
Are you sure you don’t want some help with that thing? It’s bigger than you are.”
“No, thanks. I’ve been lugging this thing around town for years.”
Well, come on in and set it down then.”
Devoid of any feminine touches, the inside of Jace’s mountain hideaway was masculine and comfortably functional.
The living room was rustic, yet modern and had a stone fireplace, cathedral ceilings with long log beams, and tongue-and-groove wood ceilings. The furniture consisted of sturdy wood end tables, a big, mushy brown leather couch and a matching recliner in front of a big screen TV.
“I was just working out and I’m sorta sweaty
,” Jace explained. Just because he was injured didn’t mean he could stay home and slack off. “Do you mind if I grab a quick shower?” he asked.
Immediately, Violet’s brain thought of all the ways a man could work up a sweat.
Most of them involved being horizontal in a bedroom.
She shook her head to chase the errant thought away and answered him. “No, I don’t mind at all. That would give me time to get
everything set up.”
watched him disappear down the hall and stopped herself from following him. She wondered what his bedroom looked like and what his shower looked like and more importantly what
looked like inside the shower. She could faintly hear the shower turn on and imagined him stepping into it, sweaty and naked.
She took a deep, calming breath and focused on the task at hand.
She set up her massage table near the fireplace, in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake. It was the perfect setting for a relaxing massage.
When everything was in place,
Violet noticed the wall of framed photos near the hall and went over to admire them. Jace’s entire hockey career hung there, suspended in time. There were team photos, newspaper clippings, and even a framed draft jersey. The row of photos captured the moment when he won the Division Championship, Jace as two-time Sir Smythe Trophy winner and a young Jace when he was drafted into the league as a fourth-round draft pick.
In the middle, framed in
gold, was a team photo of the Ontario Thunder after they won the Gordie Prince Cup. Next to that was a snapshot of Jace holding and kissing the Cup, the magical chalice that every hockey player chased and dreamed of hoisting above their head in a victory lap around the ice.
chest tightened. It was a beautiful moment captured on film. The culmination of hard work, talent and loads of determination. She could only imagine what it must have been like to win the Cup in front of thousands of adoring fans. Closing her eyes, she could almost hear the roar of the crowd and the voices of Jace’s teammates congratulating each other. What would it be like to know such pure untainted success?
opened her eyes and wondered if Jace’s shoulder would hold out for him to win the Cup again. This time in Red Valley.
Probably not, she thought sadly. The Razors rarely eve
r made it into the playoffs and whether he wanted to admit it or not, his injuries were catching up to him.
he sound of running water turned off in the bathroom. Violet stood still, rooted to the wood floor and imagined Jace toweling off. Without even bothering to reign in her naughty imagination, she imagined fluffy white cotton scraping over his body, absorbing every last drop of moisture from his skin.
minute later, he came down the hall and stood behind her. She didn’t move away or turn to look at him and could smell his clean, fresh scent.
“I was just admiring your career,” she said, looking at his reflection in the glass of one of the frames.
“It’s been quite a ride.” His voice was low and husky like they were having an intimate conversation and not one about his hockey career.
She could feel his breath hot on her neck and could smell the soap on his skin.
“I remember this.” She ran her finger along the wooden frame. “You played for the Ontario Thunder when you won the Cup. I remember watching the game on TV with my brothers.”
“It was the greatest day of my life.”
He exhaled and once again his breath tickled her neck. “We battled for it all season long and when we finally won it…it was surreal. When I lifted the Cup over my head it was as light as a feather.”
She turned around because she didn’t want to miss the emotion in those blue eyes when he spoke about his passion. He was wearing only a towel slung low on his hips. His black hair was wet and slicked back. She tried to swallow, but couldn’t. He was so close
that she could see tiny droplets of water on his shoulder that the towel had missed. She bit down on her tongue to stop from leaning forward and licking them off.
“I’ll never forget th
at feeling,” he said.
I can’t imagine. We were so happy to see someone from Red Valley win the Cup. Your parents must have been thrilled.” Yes, ask about his parents. Anything to distract from what was beneath that towel.
“Do they still live in Red Valley?” she asked, hoping to find out more about the man behind the hockey gear, or, er towel.
They followed me down to Florida when I was traded to the Orlando Everblades. They loved it so much, they’ve been there ever since.” He glanced at the photo again. “I’m glad to have won it at least once before I have to hang up my skates.”
His eyes lost their twinkle and
“This is probably going to be my last season
,” he explained. He had been deliberating the idea of retiring. Not by choice, but by necessity. His knee still bothered him on occasion and now his shoulder was starting to become a problem. There was only so much he could take when the toll of each game was so high. All it took was for him to put the equipment on and he was sore for days.
It felt strange to say the words out loud and he couldn’t believe he was actually telling her this. He hadn’t told
he was thinking about retiring. He hadn’t even really admitted it to himself yet, but for some reason he felt the need to confide in Violet.
,” she said softly, recognizing the sadness in his voice.
“Back then I still had speed on the ice because my legs were strong, but then I blew out my knee a couple of years ago. And now with my shoulder acting up, I don’t really have much of a choice.”
He sounded weary, like the decision weighed on him heavily. It made her sad to think of him giving up something he loved so much and was so good at.
Concern settled on her face and she put her hand on his arm.
To comfort, to console. His skin was cool and moist from his shower, but it quickly warmed under her fingers. Comfort soon turned to desire. Red hot, scorching desire. Violet had never felt so responsive to a man before. She quickly dropped her hand and motioned to the massage table. They really needed to move out of the hallway and into the bigger space of the living room.
“What will you do after retiring?”
she asked as she followed him over to the massage table.
Wither away into a dark void
, he thought to himself.
Coaching or commentary, probably,” he answered. He’d been invited up to the announcers’ broadcast booth a few times and liked the atmosphere. If that didn’t pan out there was always coaching. “I don’t know for sure. I haven’t really thought about it.”
That was a lie.
It was all he thought about. He’d spent months contemplating if there was in fact life after hockey. He hoped there was. Either way, he was about to find out whether he wanted to or not.
Her brow furrowed. “Are you
really planning on retiring soon?”
He shrugged away the million dollar question.
Thinking about retirement meant accepting that the day would come. If he didn’t think about it, it wasn’t real. He didn’t want to think about it.
,” he answered, lifting his “good” shoulder in a shrug and letting it fall. “There comes a point when the old bag of bones starts to fall apart.” He offered her a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
She looked over his body and tried to analyze him objectively.
His big body was toned and muscular without an extra ounce of fat clinging to his narrow waist. Now that she was seeing him through thawed out eyeballs, she could appreciate his good looks and athletic build. Athletes, especially hockey players, were gods among men.
“You look like you’re in spectacular shape to me
,” she commented.
“Thanks.” In return,
Jace let himself look Violet over lazily from head to toe. Two could play this game.
could feel his hot gaze on her breasts, waist, thighs… It was like his smoldering blue eyes burned right through the fabric of her clothes.
turned and walked to the wall of windows overlooking the lake and gazed outside. “The view here is incredible,” she said in an effort to change the subject. She shouldn’t look at him like that, like he was here just for her. And he shouldn’t look at her in the same way like she was…
“It sure is,” he agreed, but he wasn’t referring to the lake.
“I love how beautiful the snow is, but I sure like the springtime when the flowers start to bloom. Daisies are my favorite. My grandma had daisies planted all around her little house and in the summertime it was the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen.”
He didn’t say anything and she knew she was rambling.
“You have a beautiful home,” she said softly.
Thanks.” He moved to stand next to her. “I’ve traveled the world and I keep coming back to this place. It feels like home to me more than anywhere else I’ve been.”
“I can see why.”
They stood for a moment looking out the window both lost in their own separate thoughts. She could hear him breathing next to her. The sound was comforting and jarring at the same time.
“Well,” she said, pulling
herself from the trance he always seemed to put her in. “I guess we should get started. Are you ready?”